Movies/Books for Men

A young woman recently asked me to compile a list of movies and books about manhood; being a good man for her adolescent son (she is divorced and she wants to provide her son with what it means to be a good man).  The following is the list I compiled; movies with a brief description (of aspects of being a man) to look for and my selection of books.

Searching for Bobby Fisher:  A boy’s struggle to believe in himself and own gifts and a father’s struggle to support his son and realize his role in that process.

Shindler’s List:  A man’s recognition of how one’s own greed can get in the way of life’s or God’s intended plan in life for him.

Boy in Stripped Pajamas:  An example of how two boys’ friendship with each other can overcome great political obstacles, even death.

Sleepers:  How childhood trauma can have tremendous impact on one’s life as a man and the role of revenge in finding personal peace/meaning.

Road to Perdition:  A boy struggles to understand what “good” and “bad” truly are and how to understand his father.  Also, a man struggles to understand love of family, and love of a father-figure.

The Road:  A father’s love of his son, a son’s struggle to accept the harsh realities of life.

Away From Men:  A man, after maturing and successfully taking on leadership responsibilities, becomes aware of deeper values he has (love of peace, teaching children, the sacredness of life, belief in God) and struggles to live these out.

Never Cry Wolf:  A man faces what he believes in and how such beliefs change over time.

Odyssey:  A man struggles to listen to messages or voices he hears within himself and the confusion that come when listening to and following such messages.

Heat:  A “bad” man tries to live life according to a principle he holds deeply and is confused when he falls in love violating that principle.  A “good” man loses an opportunity to live a good life when he lives his life according to his principle of stopping bad men.

Dances with Wolves:  A man struggles to make sense of life as he slowly realizes there are different ways of living life and the conflicts this realizations brings.

Out of the Furnace:  There is honor in caring for the sick, working hard, paying off your debts, even the debts of family.  Sometimes, accidents happen and good men go to jail; sometimes good men must break the rules and face the consequences of such.

Star Wars:  Episodes 4-6, watch as Luke gains confidence only after he faces what he fears the most.  (The fact that he has both good and evil within him.)  Episodes 1-3, see the need for good male guidance as a boy grows up, the seduction of doing what feels good and the shame when one runs from doing what is right.

Mission:  One man struggles to face the consequences of what he’s done.  Another man struggles to face the consequences of his beliefs.

How to Train Your Dragon:  A boy’s struggle to believe in himself even if it costs him his father’s love.  A father’s struggle to recognize he’s nearly lost everything by not believing in his son.

Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events:  Just a great movie!

Mudd:  A wonderful example of how powerful a boy’s love can be for a girl.

Ghandi:  What happens when you believe in God, stand up for what is right, are truly humble, and are not afraid to suffer for what you believe in.

Kingdom of Heaven:  What happens when you believe in God, stand up for what is right, are truly humble, and are not afraid to suffer for what you believe in.

Shawshank Redemption:  Not everyone in prison is bad, and even at your lowest points in life, you can still be kind to others, and this will change your life.

Black Stallion:  A boy, ship wrecked, alone, and scared, is saved by the love of a horse.

The Edge:  What one man can do, another man can do.

Little Boy:  There are forces at work behind the scenes of our lives that we don’t know about.  These forces have tremendous impact on us/our lives.

Labor Day:  Be kind, be patient.

Cold Mountain:  Love and meet your responsibilities.  It can see you through anything.

Iron Clad:  Face the challenges of the course in life you choose and stay close to God.  This will get you through life, even when it almost kills you.  Oh yes, be kind, say your prayers, and work hard.

The King’s Speech:  One man’s struggle to face his fears and another man’s choice to believe in the failing part of another man.

  • Men and the River of Life
  • Way of the Peaceful Warrior
  • Old Man and the Sea
  • Catcher in the Rye
  • Unbroken
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • The Giving Tree
  • To Kill a Mocking Bird
  • Man’s Search for Meaning
  • All the Harry Potter Books
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Books
  • Dune
  • Angela’s Ashes
  • Moby Dick
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Yearling
  • Last of the Mohicans
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Of Mice and Men

Losing a Loved One to Porn (and What You Can Do About It).

This is an article I’ve recently found on-line, authored by Dr.s Stefanie Carnes and Sue Johnson.  I think it is pretty good one. It puts porn use in perspective, defines porn addiction in understandable terms, described how porn use can effect sexual functioning and what you can do if you feel you are loosing your partner to porn. Take a look…

Losing a Loved One to Porn (and What You Can Do About It).

“It’s no secret that the internet is bursting at the seams with porn.  Sure, we also go online for information, interpersonal communication, dinner reservations, music, shopping and much more. But porn is without doubt a primary online activity.  In fact, search engine data neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed 400 million workwide seaches representiong more than two million Internet users and found that 13% of all searches were porn-related. So, yes, lots of folks are looking at pornography!

Given the above, it is perhaps unsurprising that the porn-related question we most often hear in our therapy practices relates to the amount of porn people use.  Much of the time this question is posed by wives worried about their husband’s online endeavors.  In short, these women want to know: How much porn is too much: And when does it cross the line from use to addiction?

This, of course, is a bit like asking how much alcohol makes a person alcoholic – there just isn’t a set answer.   In other works, addictions (to both substances and behaviors) are not about the amount of something; rather, they’re about obsession, loss of control, and the creation of life problems as the result of it’s use.  People qualify as addicted if:

  • occupied with a potentially addictive substance or behavior (thinking about it, pursuing it, etc.);
  • they’ve lost control over use (using even when they don’t want to, not being able to stop once they’ve started, etc.);
  • Their lives are falling apart as a result (relationship issues, trouble at work, financial problems, legal woes, depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, social/emotional isolation, etc.).

These are the benchmarks therapists use to diagnose porn addiction-and every other kind of addiction.  So the amount of porn a person is looking at is not a defining factor.  Nonetheless, research does suggest that porn addicts-those individual who meet the criteria above-typically spend at least 11 hours per week searching for and looking at porn (with or without masturbation).  And it’s not uncommon for use to escalate well beyond that level-reaching 20, 30 or more hours per week.

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Addiction

There are numerous other signs and symptoms, beyond the conditions above, that often indicate compulsive porn use:

  • Escalation-increasing amounts of time that a person spends on porn, and/or an increased intensity of the material they view (moving from “vanilla” porn to hardcore, fetish or violent porn).
  • Withdrawal-becoming restless, irritable and discontent when porn is not available.
  • Dishonesty-lying and keeping secrets about porn use (amount of time, content they view, etc.),
  • Disconnection-loss of interest in family, friends, work, and previously enjoyable activities.
  • Sexual Dysfunction-loss of interest in real-world partner sex and/or problems with delayed ejaculation (DE), erectile dysfunction (ED) and/or anorgasmia (inability to reach orgasm).

Over time, many porn addicts will link their porn use to other forms of compulsive sexuality-sexting, webcam masturbation, anonymous and/or casual hookups, serial affairs, prostitution, sex clubs, strip clubs, voyeurism, exhibitionism, online sex games, etc. This is the equivalent of substance abusers escalating in their addiction, ingesting any mind-altering substance they get their hands on.  Still, many porn addicts are strictly porn addicts, just as many alcoholics are strictly alcoholics.

Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction

As you may have noticed, we list sexual dysfunction as a common sign/symptom of porn addiction-and with good reason. One relatively large-scale survey of sex addicts found that more than a quarter (26.7%) experienced ED, DE or anorgasmia.  Smaller studies suggest that sexual dysfunction is a common sex addiction side effect-17% of sex addicts reported problems in one study, 58% in another.

Unsurprisingly, the primary sexual dysfunction issue is ED-even among younger porn addicts in their teens and twenties.  Much of the time, these men report that they have no trouble achieving and maintaining an erection when looking at porn, but they struggle with real-world partners.  Compulsive porn use seems to create a psychological disconnection that manifests physically in some men as ED.  After, all, when a guy spends the vast majority of his sexual life engaging with endless amounts of constantly changing, hyper-stimulating online imagery, a single in-the-flesh partner can’t exactly compete-even if the porn addict truely loves that partner.

This, of course, is one of the true paradoxes of sexual addiction: Sex addicts, especially porn addict, often struggle to perform sexually with their real-life partners. And this is not because they’re not interested in great sex, or they don’t want to be with their partner.  It seems that their sexual response has become conditioned to function only in the context of stereotypical porn images.  So they struggle to get hard, stay hard, and reach orgasm with actual people. Sometimes they can only manage to perform fact-to-face when they replay in their minds the videos and images they’ve seen online.  Over time, they often come to desire pron sex more than partner sex.

This becomes a huge issue for the partners of porn addicts.  When a man turns to porn and then cannot perform sexually with his partner, this undermines not just his own sexual pleasure but also his partner’s .  More important, it undermines the very security of the bond between partners.  After all, sex is also a bonding behavior.  Worse, partners may take this on themselves, resulting in significant sexual self-image problems.

If you believe you are losing your partner to porn, what can you do about it?

1. Ask your partner if he thinks that the time he spends looking at porn is getting to be a problem or interfering with his ability to really be with you in bed. If you can manage to do this with curiosity and concern, it usually works better than accusing or blaming.  It may be that your partner can soothe your fears. For many, occasional porn use does not become, in any way, addictive and there may be other things going on, such as unresolved conflicts in your relationship, that reduce a partner’s sex drive or cause him to withdraw physically for a while.

2. Step aside from the shame and fear that arise when you feel less than desired by your loved one.  Try to keep in mind that someone can become caught in a less than functional habit for many reasons and in many ways.  Gerry helps his wife Anne by telling her, “Look, I started watching porn as an escape from bad feelings way before I met you.  It kind of stopped when I met you, but then we were getting into fights and going to porn just made me feel better-less stressed out.  This isn’t about you.  It’s just the way I’ve learned to cope.”

3. Seek help from a couples therapist who can help you and your partner talk about this calmly and cooperatively.  Partners’ perspectives often differ wildly.  John says, “You are overacting.  All I am doing is typing and watching people have sex.” Mary counters, “But you don’t have sex with me any more and your head is full of your onscreen girls.  It’s like you are having an affair.” The couple’s therapist can the porn-watching partner decide for himself if his habit is a problem, and also help the anxious partner talk about her fears and her perceptions of the porn use.  There are also educational resources that can help, such as the video, “Your Brain on Porn,” or the Wendy Maltz book, The Porn Trap. If it seems appropriate, the porn-watching partner can also seek out a sex addiction therapist for an evaluation.  They can also join a peer group, such as SA (Sexaholics Anonymnous) or SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) to get a perspective on how (un)healthy his or her relationship with porn is.

4. The therapist can help improve your communication and emotional connection.  The cycle of relationship distress-withdrawal from physical and emotional connection by one partner and anxious complaining and anger by the other-can then become contained. This distress can be either the result of, or the trigger for, a growing addiction to porn.  Tim tells Lucy, “After we had the twins, I just felt left out-like I didn’t matter to you.  And when I looked at porn, I felt male ans strong and calm.  I didn’t feels so bad that there was this big space between us.” Lucy responds, “Well, I need you Tim.  I want you to come back to me, not go to those girls on the screen. I want you to come to me for comfort and for sex.  I never meant to turn away from you.” If you and your partner are really caught in a demon dialogue of criticism/accusation and evasion/withdrawal, then you are both isolated and stressed and really need to change this dance, which simply maintains relationship distress and any porn problem.  It is easier for your partner to turn to the screen that is at the command of his fingertips than to deal with you, an enraged partner.

5. You can find a therapist for yourself.  Bonding science tells us that feeling shut out and rejected by the person we depend on registers in our brains in much the same way as physical pain.  Plus, that rejection is a danger cue that can send us into panic.  A therapist can help with such feelings.  If finding one is too hard, then finding other ways to de-stress and find comfort are crucial for you.

The best answer to an over-activated relationship with porn is a secure, engaged emotional and sexual relationship with a partner.  We are getting better and better at helping people find this (To read about how the new science of bonding can help, read my book, Hold me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.).

Finally, it is perhaps worth noting that we do not use the word “addiction” in this article to, in any way, dismiss or judge the many forms of eroticism or the diverse ways that people explore their sexual desires.  It is used to refer to a growing pragmatic, clinical reality and to further the discussion about how to deal with it.  For referrals to a certified sex or porn addiction therapist, visit For couples counseling information and refgerral, visit”

Dr. Stefanie Carnes /

D r.Sue Johnson /

Does Watching Porn Affect Intimate Relationships? (Part One: Men)

Another article I found and thought was interesting.  It was written by Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S.


There is a documented relationship between the amount of adult male porn use and spousal/partner interest. The more frequently he uses porn and/or the longer the periods of his viewing porn, can cause detachment from his partners, to the point where he is ‘dating’ porn and his need for a partner dwindles.

Increased and consistent porn use in heterosexual men will cause the following to occur:

  1. Reduced interest in sex and physical intimacy with long-term spouse/partner.
  2. Increased overall sexual objectification of strangers – checking them out more, seeing them visually more as body parts as individuals with lives/roles, etc.
  3. Increased overall view of all females as sexual objects, but not just physically (as above), but also in terms of a lower regard for women as people in general (i.e. he becomes less respectful, less considerate of feelings). A man who is viewing a great deal of porn will show a reduced empathic connection to women.All of the above will return to the man’s baseline after he significantly reduces or eliminates his porn use and this is true for males in general, not specifically sex or porn addicts.

Most healthy men, as they mature, do feel over time that porn is secondary to actual sex and while some will have times of increased use – perhaps when a partner is away, when under stress or when single, most adult men experience and use porn as a substitute for the real thing. They “get” and accept the two-dimensional aspect of the porn and use it as such. That being said, there is a small percentage of men (women as well), who can become addicted to the intensity and emotional arousal the porn provides – approximately 3-5% of the total male population. These men use porn as a means of emotional self-stability, comfort, anxiety reduction, etc. And for them – the relationship consequences are far more long-term in terms of reduction in partner intimacy (on all levels), lying, keeping the porn secret and often using it to progress to sex with those met online.

This leads to the age old question – “Does viewing porn and masturbating a few times a week cause men to not be able to climax with their girlfriends during “normal” sex?”

This is very specific to the individual male, his age and sexual relationship of the couple. Some men briefly look at porn 2-3 times weekly and masturbate without any specific negative affect on their relationship or couple intimacy. Consider the difference between the 27-year-old man in a 2-year relationship to a woman he adores and with whom he enjoys having a lot of sex vs. the 44-year-old man with 3 kids and a wife of 21 years.  The effect that the porn use has on each of these men and their relationship is going to differ because of age, life circumstance, relationship connection, etc.

More destructive to relationships than recreational porn use, is the keeping of secrets. Infidelity can be defined as the keeping of secrets in an intimate relationship. So, if a man looks at porn a few times a month and masturbates to it, doesn’t tell his spouse – is that a problem? Only likely to be so if she has strong moral/ethical or other principals about this, has previously asked him not to look at it, if they don’t have sex themselves, and she is understandably jealous of the porn and/or she is afraid that the kids will find it.  But if a man is looking at porn multiple times weekly or daily for extended periods of time and doesn’t tell his spouse – BIG PROBLEM! He is now keeping her out of a part of his life that is likely affecting both of them and if/when she finds out,  it will be worse and she will ultimately feel betrayed.

In general, men want to have that porn experience on their own, perhaps it substitutes in our ‘modern age’ as an affair or infidelity of the mind so to speak – but some bring the porn into their relationship sexuality to “spice it up” or to see if they can interest their partner in doing some sexual act that he has been seeing in the porn. Some female spouses enjoy watching the porn as well, so this is really about each partner and the couple together – hard to answer in generalities. Certainly, the increased access to all kinds of porn without having to go out to buy or rent it or even pay for it online, has increased the amount of porn that men and couples are viewing separately and together.

Part One serves as a segway to Part Two of this post, focusing on women and porn use. Stay tuned!


11 Secrets Men Keep from Women

I came across this on my internet browser homepage; “11 Secrets Men Keep from Women“. I included only 9. It’s a good list. I’ve talked with women (girlfriends, wives) about such issues before in sessions.

1. “I need you to make me feel like a big, strong man.”
Your husband may feel insecure if his masculine qualities, like physical strength, never impress you. “This isn’t the ’50s anymore, but there are still some genetically determined pieces of men’s self worth,” says marriage therapist Mike Dow, PsyD. Since he’ll feel even less like a tough guy divulging this need for extra attention, he’ll stay mum. So compliment his brawn – even if it’s just for popping the lid off the jam jar. Also, give him a chance to assemble that dresser before offering your expertise. Dr. Dow says if you take charge instead of letting him take care of it, he’ll feel emasculated.

2. “Mum’s the word.”
Ever feel like your opinionated hubby’s holding something back? Men aren’t naturally gifted at expressing themselves like women, so they may keep quiet about sensitive subjects. But those secrets can cause marriage problems. “If it’s safe for him to speak honestly, that might improve his experience in the relationship,” says clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, PhD. I’ll tell women, two things in this area: ask him nicely without attitude, what he is thinking about a topic you are talking to him about, if he is quiet; watch your reaction to his comments, the more emotional you become the less likely he is to talk. The emotional drama scares men; they feel confused with what to do or say, if you cry or yell; they feel manipulated.

3. “Yes, I was checking out that woman.”
The male brain is hardwired to notice pretty young things, since they’re likely to be fertile and capable of producing healthy children, says Dr. Dow. In fact, your hubby’s head may turn before his brain realizes! Call him out for ogling or flirting, but let him off the hook for the occasional quick glance. “His brain is closer to an animal’s than yours,” explains Dr. Dow. “As long as you’re the person he dotes on, sleeps with and adores, that 25-year-old has nothing on you.”

4. “It’s not that you look fat in that dress, they just all look the same to me.”
Distant sights may register easily for him – “his hunter brain needed to target animals far away to bring home dinner a few thousand years back,” says Dr. Dow – but he isn’t attuned to finer, up-close details. To him, the blue dress looks just like the red one you tried on. If he stumbles through a response about your outfit when you ask what he thinks, don’t read into it. “If he married you, it’s because he thinks you’re beautiful,” says Dr. Dow. “He wants you to wear whatever dress you like best.”

5. “Making love is great, but let’s just have sex on occasion.”
When it comes to doing the deed, men are microwaves and women are slow cookers, says Dr. Dow. “Your female brain is swimming in oxytocin, which gives you a peaceful high throughout the day, but men’s testosterone depresses oxytocin production but he gets a big oxytocin dose right after an orgasm,” says Dr. Dow. While he enjoys the romance of making love, sometimes he’d prefer to get to the big O faster. It’s tough for him to delicately explain this, so if he’s normally eager to please you, return the favor every now and then with a mind-blowing quickie.

6. “I have particular sexual fantasies.”
Whether it’s innocent or risque, he probably won’t make these most private wishes known – but not because he wants to keep them to himself. “Many men have a difficult time communicating what they prefer in bed, ” says Charles J. Orlando, author of The Problem with Women…is Men. “He might want it, but doesn’t know how to ask or let you know.” Help him by sharing one of your fantasies, Orlando suggests. “Nothing like showing your vulnerability to encourage him to do the same.”

7. “Sometimes I’d rather you be quiet.”
Although you’re perfectly capable of listening to him while you’re relaxing, he can’t multitask as well. “The male brain is more linear, moving from task to task,” says Dr. Dow. Plus, “communicating at work all day exhausts his brain more than yours.” But admitting he needs alone time as you spill your office problem doesn’t seem supportive, so he doesn’t bring it up. Try giving him some space when he comes home. Once he’s had the chance to unwind, “conversation will come more easily for him,” says Dr. Dow. It will be more enjoyable for you too.

8. “I lie to keep the peace.”
If he doesn’t know what’ll set you off, he may fib to avoid a potential confrontation. “If we get that this secrecy is about fear, we can be more compassionate and help our mate with his anxieties., says couples therapist Sue Johnson, PhD, author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. If he messes up and “fesses up’, take a deep breath and address it without getting angry. And if you do fight, tell him after that you nevertheless appreciate his honesty. (see #2)

9.  “We’re struggling financially.”
Men equate financial stability with their provider skills: The more unstable things are, the more he feels like he’s failed as a provider. “If he’s making less than he used to and the bills aren’t able to be paid, he might hide it,” says Orlando. “He may not want to look at himself, much less look poorly in your eyes.” While losing his job is too big of a secret to keep, he may not divulge exactly how much is going out and coming in. “Stay involved in the finances, so life’s curve balls don’t surprise you,” Orlando advises. “And let him know regularly that you love him – not the cash that comes in.”

Guys, the Holidays Really are Different for Her

When we, (guys, in general) think of holiday meals with family, we think of watching TV, over-eating, drinking (perhaps a little too much), and teasing siblings.  Have you ever stopped and considered what it’s like for her, your wife or girlfriend?  Consider the following:

  • If she brings a dish, she fears/knows it will be judged on what it looks like, how it was cooked, if people like it/eat it.
  • She’ll be judged on what she is wearing, how her hair looks, and/or what her weight is.
  • She’ll be judged on what she says, how she responds to people who disagree with her, and/or what her political positions are.
  • She’ll be judged by her mother, father, MOTHER-IN-LAW, father-in-law, siblings, sibling’s spouses, her kids, her kid’s kids, her sibling’s kids, sibling’s kid’s kids, aunts and uncles, cousins…..even the dog.
  • She looks out for that lecherous uncle that tends to grope when he hugs “hello” and “goodbye”.
  • She’s judged if she doesn’t help cook and clean up, and how she cooks and cleans up.
  • She is expected to be nice to the neice that complains about her gift (after she agonized over getting the right item).
  • She is expected to be nice to the aunt that is critical of her working full time, the mother-in-law that she never seems to please, and her own sibilings who always insist their child be first.
  • She is expected to be nice to the in-law that is “perfect” in everything including her weight, style of dress, profession, parenting, and religion. (Who, by the way, the mother-in-law loves.)
  • She is expected to be nice to the cousin that is always the center of attention, her father-in-law that goes on and on about small engine repair for hours, and the various “mistakes” people jokingly accuse her of that happened years ago which are brought up at every family meal.

Do you get the picture?

What to do:

  • Ask her what she is most concerned about with holidays at your parents.
  • Listen to her.  Reflect back so she knows you are listening.
  • DON’T minimize her concerns.
  • Ask what she wants you to do to help to prepare for the visit.
  • Check in with her during the visit to see how she’s doing and what you could do to help.

More later……..

Dad, Six Things to Say During “The Talk”

I read this article, “Six Things to Say During “The Talk” recently in Men’s Health and I was pleasantly surprised with it’s content so I decided to add it to my blog.  The article is in the May 2015 edition, pg 84 by Nick Keppler.  The article is presented here in an edited version.  I encourage you to check it out. I am aware the suggestions in this article may not match your/your family’s values but from my prespective, it may give you some ideas of things you have not (and need to) mention the next time you have “the talk”.*  Further, it may give you ideas of how to expound on topics you have already covered.

“1. “99.9 percent of the time, sex is not about babies.” When Dan Savage’s son D.J. was 9 years old, he confronted his two dads.   “You and Daddy have sex for no reason.  Two men can’t make a baby!” That’s when Savage, the author of several sex advice books and arguably America’s most prominent syndicated sex columnist, realized he may have botched the talk.  “I left out the most important part: pleasure,” he says.  But those communication fumbles are fine, he learned as long as you correct them.

2. “Don’t rush it – but when it happens use a condom.”  Young people often thing good sex is “just something that breaks out, that impulsiveness is evidence of authentic feelings.” says Savage.  They may even feel that actively planning to be intimate is dirty.  “We need to flip that,” he says.  If your kids do want their first time to “find them,” warn that it could happen when they’re drunk or lack protection.  Stress the importance of having a condom handy and knowing how to put it on.

3. “If talking to me is too weird, talk to Aunt Claire.”  Don’t be afraid to delegate in a pinch.  When Savage and three siblings were teenagers, their mother appointed aunts to be their confidantes on all matters sexual.  Those relative were told not to report what they heard back to Savage’s parents.  “They weren’t in our lives every day so we didn’t have to see them constantly, he says.  It wasn’t like we had to go to an adult who we would have to look in the eye every morning.

4. “Whatever you want to watch is your business.”  Yeah, this part of the discussion may feel especially awkward but your teen is online so he has probably seen hours of porn….Tell your kids that porn doesn’t represent real-life sex.  “Teach them to have a critical eye-to be thoughtful porn consumers, ” Savage says.

5. “Everyone is into different things.  I’ll leave it at that.” “People who are kinky need to know that their life isn’t over because they’re into diapers or whatever,” Savage says.  If you’re uncomfortable talking about, say, bondage, to your 13 year old, just mention atypical sexual interest when bring up another must-discuss topic: consent.  Savage’s script: “The craziest thing two people want to do together – if it’s consensual and they take steps to assure their mutually safe – is fine.

6. “Whichever way you lean, I’ll always love you.”  Teenagers are riddled with insecurities and sexuality ranks high among them.  “Kids have attempted suicide because they assumed their parents would have a problem with their being gay and the parents actually didn’t,” says Savage.  “But the parents never said anything about how they would accept them.” So make some acknowledgment of homosexuality to show you’re okay with it and that they should feel the same way.”


* I indirectly suggested one talk was not enough.  My belief is that it is not.  How could a parent possibly cover ALL the topics in one’s sexuality in one talk.  Experts (that I have read) suggest parents look at “The Talk” as a series of conversations you have with your son/daughter over a period of time, starting  early (7-8 for girls, 9-10 for boys). As they age and their life experiences change, so to you change the topics you talk about, becoming increasing focused on sexuality and intimacy in/out of relationships.


More later.

Guys: 21 things your woman wants you to know and do.

A Good Man….9 Characteristics

The following is taken from the motivational speaker,  Steve Pavlina.  Check out his website for much more.

The following is 9 characteristics of a good man.

1. A man makes real decisions.  A man understands and respects the power of choice.  He lives a life of his own creation.  He knows that life stagnates when he fails to decide and flourishes when he chooses a clear path.  When a man makes a decision, he opens the door to what he wants and closes the doors on what he doesn’t want or needs or is good for him.  There is no guarantee he’ll reach his goal, and he knows this, but he doesn’t need such guarantees.  A man doesn’t require the approval of others but will seek it when he wants it or his decisions could impact the lives of others he is responsible for/accountable to.  He’s willing to follow his heart wherever it takes him. When a man if following his heart-centered path, it’s of little consequence if the entire world is against him

2. Be willing to fail.  A man is willing to make mistakes; admit to his mistakes.  He’s willing to be wrong.  He’d rather try and fail than do nothing.  A man’s self-trust is one of his greatest assets.  When he second-guesses himself by worrying about failure, he diminishes himself.  An intelligent man considers the prospect of failure, but he doesn’t preoccupy himself with pointless worry.  He accepts that if a failure outcome occurs, he can deal with it.  A man grows more from failure than he does from success.  Success cannot test his resolve in the way that failure can.  Success has its challenges, but a man learns more about himself when he takes on challenges that involve risk.  When a man plays it safe, his vitality is lost, and he loses his edge.

3. Be confident. A man speaks and acts with confidence.  He owns his attitude.  A man is willing to be defeated by the world.  He’s willing to be taken down by circumstances beyond his control.  But he refuses to be overwhelmed by his own self-doubt.  He knows that when he stops trusting himself, he is surely lost.  He’ll surrender to fate when necessary, but he won’t surrender to fear.

4. Expresses love actively.  A man is an active giver of love, not a passive receiver.  A man is the first to initiate a conversation, the first to ask for what’s needed and the first to say “I love you”.  Waiting for someone else t make the first move is unbecoming of him.  The universe does not respond positively to his hesitation.

5. Re-channel sex energy.  A man doesn’t hide his sexuality.  If others shrink from him because he’s too masculine, he allows them to have their reaction. There’s no need for him to lower his energy just to avoid frightening the timid.  A man accepts the consequences of being male; he makes no apologies for his mature.  A man is careful not to allow his energy to get stuck at the level of lust.  He re-channels much of his sexual energy into his heart and head, where it can serve his higher values instead of just his animal instincts. A man re-channels his sexual energy into heart-centered pursuits.

6. Face your fears. For a man, being afraid of something is reason enough to do it.  A man’s fear is a call to be tested.  When a man hides from his fears, he knows he’s fallen out of alignment with his true self.  He feels weak, depressed and helpless.  No matter how hard he tries to comfort himself and achieve a state of peace, he cannot overcome his inner feelings of dread.  Only when facing his fears does s man experience peace. A man succeeds or fails. A coward never makes the attempt.  Specific outcomes are of less concern to a man than his direction.

7. Honoring the masculinity of other men.  When a man sees a male friend undertake a new venture that may fail, what does he do? The man honors his friend’s decision to reach out and make the attempt.  The man won’t deny his friend the benefits of a failure experience. The may offer his friend guidance, but he knows his friend must fail repeatedly in order to develop self-trust and courage.

8. Accept responsibility for your relationships.  A man chooses his friends, lovers and associates consciously.  He actively seeks out the company of people who inspire and challenge him and he is willingly sheds those who hold him back.  A man holds himself accountable for the relationships he allows into his life.  He holds others accountable for their behavior but he holds himself accountable for his decisions to tolerate such behavior.

9. Die well.  When a man is satisfied that he’s done all he can do to develop himself, he can make peace with death.  But if he fails to do so, death becomes his enemy and haunts him all the days of his life.  A man cannot die well unless he lives well.  A man lives well when he accept his mortality and draws strength from knowing that his physical existence is temporary.  When a man faces and accepts the inevitability of death…when he learns to see death as his ally instead of his enemy, he’s able to express his true self.

Essential Things for Dads’ to Do with their Sons.

I work with a lot of children and adolescents and in my years of practice, I have come across a couple things that I strongly advocate fathers’ to do with their sons.  Why.  Most of the boys I see lack self confidence, tolerance of stress, knowledge of older (healthy) men…what they think about, what they feel, what they enjoy, how they play, etc.  This knowledge is critical for boys to have because it gives them an idea of what they could/will be like when they get older.  It also gives them something to work with as they create an image of the man they want to become.  Boys learn how to be a man from men…in whatever models they have.  It is not that women don’t play a role in the maturation of boys/sons, but rather, they play increasingly an indirect role as boys get older and men play a much more direct role.

These activities I think can foster the boy’s self-esteem, tolerance of stress/pressure and help them get to know you…dad.  Some of these I do with the young men I see in my office…some I don’t for obvious reasons.  Try them with your sons.

1. Encourage them to climb a tree.  Stay there and talk to them as they are doing it and after they are down.  Why.  Climbing a tree calls for the boy to control his fears in the face of danger and yet also feel the exhilaration of achievement and challenge.  This activity also forces the child to confront his fears and think creatively and problem solve under pressure.  Your job, while he is climbing, is two-fold: Watch him (in case he falls) and praise him as he succeeds.  After the climb, your job is to listen to him talk about the experience and then share your recollections of trees you have climbed, the risks you took and the feelings you had…sitting up there in the tree, looking around.

2. Read a couple age-appropriate books with your son…and discuss them as you read.  What books….again, it depends on their age but ages 10, 11, 12 and up…you could read some of the classics with them…reading either to him or with him.  Books like: Call of the Wild, Red Badge of Courage, The Hobbit, Catcher in the Rye, etc.  These speak to boys being on their own, making their own decisions, the fear of the consequences, seeing decisions out to their conclusions, dealing with the results, etc.  All essential elements boys need guidance with and encouragement during the process.  Further, as you read, you can discuss with your son what you thought while you read what the characters were doing, the parts you like, the parts that made you laugh, cry, worry, etc.  This gives your son an inside view of you, how you think, feel, etc.

3. Teach him to play chess and play chess with him.  Chess is a game of war and who better to go to war with then your own dad.  It is going to happen anyway!  A lot of reasons for this one…You lose a lot before you begin winning in chess.  He needs to experience this…losing but also learning from losing.   You can help him through this…encourage him when he loses, show him what he did wrong, show him what to do instead and again share your experiences in losing….at chess and life in general.  Kids listen when parents talk about losing in life….they listen and learn and later look at you with a unique kind of respect that comes when a parent is honest with their child.  Chess again teaches creative problems solving and how to tolerate stress.  There is also the aspect of teaching your son to attack you (Watch the film, Searching for Bobby Fischer with your son.) and the respect that he feels when you teach him how to attack you in this game.  This respect will bleed over into everyday interactions between you and him around the house.

4. Praise the effort, not the winning.  Acknowledging and identifying with the struggle of any project/contest, despite winning/loosing, helps him see the value in struggling to succeed, helps you connect with him on a physical and emotional level you can’t convey with words and it can open up the doors for conversations in the future about working hard and feeling good about yourself….because you worked hard.

5. Negotiate and make them earn an honest paycheck.  If he wants something, negotiate chores around the house to earn such and then be honest when you judge the quality of his work.  If you approach him seriously, when negotiating, he will approach you seriously.  Judge the quality of his work, keeping his age and capabilities in mind. Afterwards, you can again share your experiences of earning/working to earn something you enjoyed/prized when you were his age or older.  Again, boys love to hear stories about you and what you went through when you were learning the principles you are teaching him now.


More later…

Manners for Young Men

I have developed a series of groups to each young men (between the ages of 13 and 17) manners.

There are three groups:  General Manners, Relationship Manners and Advanced Manners.  Each group will meet for six 1 1/2 hour sessions.  They will meet in the mornings, during the summer.  Groups will be limited to approximately 6-8 members.  The young man and his parent(s) will be required to come in for a 1/2 hour meeting before they are allowed to start the group.  During this meeting, they will sign paperwork, go over rules/expectations, etc.  When I have 6-8 young men signed up for a particular group, I will start the group.  The cost is $125.00 for a group/six session or $375.00 for all three groups.

The topics of the General Manners Group is as follows:

  • Use of Please, Thank You, Miss, Mr., Yes, No
  • Holding the Door
  • Shaking Hands
  • Introducing your Friends to Parents/Others
  • How to Talk/Listen to Adults
  • Knowing When to Talk and When to Not Talk
  • Asking Permission
  • Paying/Receiving a Compliment
  • Making/Accepting an Apology
  • Accepting a Gift, Especially One You Don’t Like
  • Phone/Electronics Etiquette at Home/in Public
  • Talking to Parents/Teachers vs. Friends
  • Dressing for Home vs Being in Public
  • Dialing a Wrong Number
  • Starting/Ending a Call
  • Use of the Bathroom

Topics for the Relationship Manners Group:

  • Women in General: Emotional/Logical Perspective, How Women and Men are Socialized Differently in our Society and it’s Impact on Relationships, Direct vs Indirect Power in Relationships, Sexual Urges and Respect for Yourself/Her in a Girlfriend Relationship, Her Period
  • Walking with Her
  • Offering Help
  • How to Talk to a Young Woman
  • Asking for/Declining a Date
  • Asking for a (Slow) Dance
  • Breaking Up
  • Apologizing
  • Apologizing When You Feel You Did Nothing Wrong
  • Identifying/Addressing Your Own Feelings
  • Listening to Her (Listening or Making Suggestions to Solve Her Problem)
  • What to do When She is Mad at You
  • Fighting: What to Do, What Not to Do
  • Gifts/Dates
  • Disagreeing on an Issue

Topics for the Advanced Manners Group:

  • Tying a Tie
  • Ironing a Shirt/Pants
  • Polishing Shoes
  • Hygiene: Finger/Toe Nails, Cologne, Breath, Shaving, Deodorant
  • Washing/Drying Laundry
  • Restaurant Etiquette

For more information or to register, please call Esselman Counseling Services at 217-224-5273.

More later…